Why is it so hard for me to believe God has His plan for me? I still feel like I am the one to make everything turn out all right, even inside corrections. But here I am, in the facility I wanted to be in, getting the job I wanted, closer to my family and none of it because of me, as far as everyone tells me. I am a pawn in the system. And a system that doesn’t care about anything or anyone but itself I am also told. Keep it rolling, keep ’em coming, keep our jobs. So I obviously do not have much say or pull in this system, and in reality, can only rely on God. I am learning to. Slowly.
So Monday comes and I report to the building where I was told to report, where Transitional Services is held. In the New York State Correctional System, Transitional Services provides the same programs in each facility. Phase I is an introduction to the facility and what to expect inside corrections there. It is a week long and, as I experienced the last two places, facilitated by inmates. It runs every week as guys are constantly coming and going, so there is always a demand, even if the attendance is low.
Phase II is a more intensive program, running anywhere from 8 to 16 weeks, (usually about 12 but depending on the facility) and covers life skills such as decision making, moral values, life planning, family beliefs and other relevant topics, also facilitated by inmates and thus, subject to their whims and desires. A civilian counselor is usually present during these daily sessions.
Phase III is right before inmates are getting released, usually at least 6-8 weeks prior, and lasts about a month, again depending on everyone’s schedule. In this phase, again facilitated by inmates with a civilian counselor usually present, guys learn job and interview skills, resume work, and work on reintegration skills and topics. Outside people often come in to help discuss different reentry issues.
ART is aggression replacement therapy, not art as everyone thinks at first, although that might be valuable to some. Here, inmate facilitators work on different strategies for releasing aggression in appropriate ways, especially working on new skills that will carry to the outside to avoid reentry. Again, a civilian counselor is present during these daily sessions.
All of these programs are mandatory for all inmates with the exception of ART, though most end up there by the simple reason they are in prison and obviously need to control their aggression however subtle it may be. There are other drug,alcohol and sex offender programs, but they are run by the counseling departments.
Another department under the auspices of Transitional Services is the call out office. Here inmates put together a list of names to be called out the next day or later in the week for all activities and classes. Things such as all Transitional Service classes, Bible Studies, any musical meeting, physical educational activities such as games or meetings, any clubs or organizations, church services, counselor meetings and the infamous grievance hearings are all put on a daily log distributed throughout the facility to let everyone know who is and who is not allowed to go to these activities and functions. Name not on the list? You don’t go, no matter how much crying, whining or fighting you do. Inmates send notes to the required departments in advance to get on the list, and a counselor or civilian director has to sign off on each person prior so they may attend. Most all other activities such as the law or regular library, any medical needs, or recreational workouts and the yard are handled on an individual basis with passes from the dorm CO. So this is an important job. Screw up a name on the list and things can become heated from many directions – inmate, counselors and CO’s. Putting someone on the list that doesn’t belong can earn you an all expense paid trip to the SHU – special housing unit, aka the box, hole or isolation as had just happened before I came. That is why I was needed in this office as an industrious gentleman was putting unauthorized guys names on lists for a fee. That was his hustle. Obviously, as with most departments, people were scrutinizing our every move and double checking to make sure things run smoothly. I guess he was smooth and ran it for a couple weeks before being figured out.
So I reported and was told the basics of the position. Another inmate and myself were to gather all the necessary data, arrange it on a sheet, have it reviewed by the CO outside the small office, then take it down to the printing office where it was duplicated and later distributed to all dorms and offices for the next days call outs to the various functions. Pretty simple really. My organizational skills of teaching and running my own business kicked in right away.
First, I suggested to my new co-worker who was hunting and pecking at the keyboard that maybe I could do that job while he organized the various lists since I type much faster. Then, instead of cutting and pasting paper lists which was done previously, I set up various templates on the computer for the days of the week so we could save re-typing time since many lists were duplicated for a week or more – such as the Phase classes mentioned before. It was fun and different, and I felt like I was serving a valuable function. I ran all the changes I suggested by Ms. Sowich, my new boss, who stopped in regularly to check on us and often verify different lists. She had no problem as long as everything was checked and double checked and it was done on time. Inmate names and ID numbers had to be accurate or guys wouldn’t be allowed to move, so that was really important. It had to be done in about two hours so it could be delivered to the printing office. Before I came I learned this was often a problem, getting it done in time. (That’s also how my predecessor was able to sneak names on the lists – last minute add-ons after the CO had approved it.)
After a final check by the CO, which usually took some time, we were given a pass to take the completed lists down about a half mile walk to the printing office which was right behind the package room. What a cake job I thought, even including a free walk outside! I thought things were starting to look pretty good for me right now save my living arrangements.
I also had been moved to a new dorm, out of reception, which wasn’t too bad. The thing was, I was placed in a six man room on a top bunk. Now I am pretty athletic and in fair shape, but at going on 57, I didn’t like climbing up every time I wanted to sit as there were only two chairs in the room, or sleep. I had heard there was a rule about not having to get a top bunk if you were over 55, so I inquired with my dorm CO. He said he’d look into it. Right.
A week later I was still up there and found I needed to write medical to get excused from climbing up there because of my age. Now I normally do not like getting older and even put off joining AARP on the outside because I said I wasn’t THAT old. But this time, I readily used my age to hasten getting closer to tierra firma. Hopefully that will work and Mid-State would live up to the rules of Corrections, and I would see another manifestation of the hand of God smoothing the road ahead for me.